Up Hill All The Way

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

bikeI remember riding my bike every where as kid. Not only was it fun, but it expanded my range of adventure. I could explore a new fishing hole I heard about. Get to a friends house sooner, so we had more time to look for snakes and frogs down at the creek. No matter where I pedaled, there was at least one killer hill between me and my destination.

At the end of my street was one steep and long hill that I remember fondly. I would challenge myself every time I went up to see how far I could get before I ran out of steam and had to walk my bike. I would also think how great it was going to be going down that same hill later. The wind whipping my face, rushing in my ears. The sound intensifying as I pedaled my WWII flying machine faster and faster.

As I grew and continued to ride, eventually I was able to go up any slope without stopping. A lesson here might be for every challenge there is a reward. Or going up hill you might eventually run out of energy and stall.

TPR valve extension plumbed up hillSeeing the water heater pictured here reminded me of my up hill challenge. The plumber who installed this unit in a thoughtful and time consuming act decided to forego convention.

Note the white PVC pipe angling upwards from the top of the unit like a black board pointer. That pipe is connected to the water heaters TPR valve. What's a TPR valve? It's a temperature pressure relief device meant to prevent your water heater from becoming a bomb if the water temperature controller fails.

Way back when, before the invention of TPR valves, houses were all to regularly leveled by water heater explosions. Even today water heater explosions still occur, fortunately, due to the TPR valve, it is a very rare occurrence most often due to negligence.

When an over pressurization of the water heater occurs, the valve opens releasing super heater water. Since the water is under pressure it can not boil. When that super heated water is released into the air, it immediately vaporizes to steam. The TPR valve is required to have a pipe extension to direct any steam and water to the floor.

The plumbing codes are fairly specific on this pipe extension. The pipe can not be PVC plastic. It can not be reduced in diameter or have any restrictions.

Oh yes, it can not run up hill.

TPR valve extension at exterior As I mentioned, the plumber was thoughtful. The end of the pipe was sent through the side of the wall to terminate outside. In this way, the homeowner was told by the plumber (I was given this story first hand) if the valve opens, the water will go outside and not all over the floor.

Here's the end of the pipe next to the outside hose spigot and water meter sensor. Can any one see a potential problem here?

An up hill challenge can build character, but ignoring the rules or worse making your own, can get someone hurt.



The following video shows just how destructive a water heater can be. 


Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

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Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


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  1. Lenn Harley 06/22/2013 01:43 AM
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Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

Hi, James. GREAT post; congratulations on the Feature!

I know more about water heaters than I did a few minutes ago, and I thank you for the information. I'll be looking at my own water heater TODAY!

Jun 22, 2013 01:55 AM #7
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

My usual nap spot is beside the water meter and hose at my house, so this TPR discharge point might heat up my dreams a bit...

And people don't believe me when I tell them the TPR on the water heater is wrong and the unit has an explosive potential.  Oh well...  I like that new "mayhem" commercial where the heater explodes through the roof.  People think that's for fun.  Not!

Jun 22, 2013 02:07 AM #8
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

P.s.  I have NEVER seen such a water heater!  It looks like the blue pressure tank used here for well equipment!  How many gallons is that unit?

Jun 22, 2013 02:11 AM #9
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi James - Blowing things up for a living would be a pretty fun job. Think I'll go take a look at that valve :)

Jun 22, 2013 02:15 AM #10
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Jay.  I thought tha tank looked more like a well water tank.  Im glad I'm not the only one.

Jun 22, 2013 02:23 AM #11
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jeanne & Ralph,  There is, CPVC. That pipe is schedule 40 PVC.

Charlie, That is the hope anyway :)

Clint, Same plumber? This guy gets around :)

Fred, Me too. One of my favorite shows. Those guys have a dream job.

Lenn, Pretty intense, right? 

Bill, There is a very good reason for them, as you see. 

Leslie, Thanks. Glad you found some good info here.

Jay, I have had many people not believe that a water heater can blow up and level a house too. I haven't seen that ad yet I'll be looking for it now. As for the water heater, it's an Amtrol Boilermate. Same company that makes the well tanks. Very common around here. 

Dick, Yep, it looks like fun to me too.

Lenn, See my answer to Jay. 

Jun 22, 2013 03:04 AM #12
Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI
Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates - Gilroy, CA
REALTOR and Broker
I've had two houses where the home inspection showed the pressure release valve had a PVC pipe attached to it. Weekend warrior water heater replacement at its cheapest.
Jun 22, 2013 03:27 AM #13
Harry F. D'Elia
RentVest - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

It is best to have a professional when it comes to matters such as these. Amazing all I can say

Jun 22, 2013 03:48 AM #14
Ronald DiLalla
Century 21 Discovery DRE 01813824 - Anaheim, CA
No. Orange Cty Real Estate

HI James, lesson well learned..There are no short cuts in life..tks for sharing.

Jun 22, 2013 04:32 AM #15
Linda Piper
Planatek Financial, Inc. - Ventura, CA

WOW!  I just learned something about water heaters...the demo looked like it was fun to do but gave me a whole new respect for how dangerous these can be without proper, professional servicing.  Thank you.

Jun 22, 2013 06:01 AM #16
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

James last Fall the TPR valve went off to release the pressure from my water heater, the problem was it did not reset once the pressure was released, and I cam home to about 3" of water all over my basement.  But I would rather come home to 3" of water than a whole in the roof :)

Jun 22, 2013 06:38 AM #17
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Associate Broker
Team Linda Simmons, Enterprise, AL 36330 - Enterprise, AL
email: Travis@theSOLDman.me / cell: 334-494-7846

WOW - love the Myth Busters link. Guess I need to go check MY new water heater to make sure...

Jun 22, 2013 08:33 AM #18
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

This illustrates why is is so important to get a great home inspector.  This can be a very serious problem.

Jun 22, 2013 12:16 PM #19
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Jim, I didn't think a boiler mate would react the same as a water heater, but a bit of water on the floor is certainly preferred to the house gone

Jun 22, 2013 01:00 PM #20
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M
James - There are certain things that just need to be done properly for safety sake.
Jun 22, 2013 03:23 PM #21
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407

Very informative post James. The video clip was eye opening too! Yikes!

Jun 22, 2013 03:41 PM #22
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Like Lenn, I say, "Wow!"  Thank you for educating us on the dangers of hot water heaters.

Jun 22, 2013 05:23 PM #23
Lucy Martinez
CHC Realty Group - Dallas, TX


Hi James. I have been learning quite a lot from inspectors and appraisers every time I have a contract accepted. The TPR valve is one of the things I learned about several years ago and it is a point I bring up when trying to educate my clients. The video really brings it home though.  Thanks for sharing it!


Jun 22, 2013 11:16 PM #24
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jimmy, Love that vid. I have watched it  a few times. I actually saw it when it aired. I was thinking about how TPR drain tubes seems to be a tough concept since it is goofed up so often.

Jun 23, 2013 01:03 AM #25
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Gary, I see pvc quite often. It is usually done by the "pros".

Harry, In this case a professional who understands the correct way of installing the component. 

Ronald, Short cuts can lead to problems.

Linda, Many people do not realize the explosive power of super heated water. Scary. 

George, Wow, 3"! that's a lot of water.

Travis, It should have a properly installed extension.

Joan, Yes potentially it can be.

Ed, An indirect is certainly less likely to over heat since it has to rely on a remote source of heat. None the less the extension would still need to be installed correctly.

Christine, Case in point :)

Ralph, Thanks. I think the Mythbusters are a lot of fun.

Sharon, Fortunately very unlikely to happen...but it can.

Lucy, There is nothing like seeing the result first hand to emphasize a point. 

Donnie, Yea, I would say about half of them are done wrong. 

Jun 26, 2013 08:16 PM #26
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